Australians Artorius, The Astrologist set for Royal Ascot's 2023 Jubilee

June 18th, 2023

We continue our look at the Australian team for Royal Ascot with the two contenders for the June 24 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1), Artorius and The Astrologist, who are joined by Hong Kong’s classy sprinter Wellington (to be profiled separately).

Older, wiser Artorius returns for last hurrah

Set to retire to stud in Australia after the Jubilee, Artorius has two reasons to improve upon his dead-heat third-place effort from last year: physical maturity and slightly better race positioning. He’s truly an older horse now, no longer at a disadvantage as a Southern Hemisphere three-year-old as he was at Royal Ascot 2022. He’s also not leaving himself quite as much to do.

Watch how close the immature Artorius came to Jubilee glory, from the rear of the far side group (red and yellow silks), probing for a seam, and knifing through. He shared third with Wesley Ward’s excellent filly Campanelle, just off the Godolphin pair of Naval Crown and Creative Force (the future third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint [G1]).

By the Artie Schiller stallion Flying Artie, and out of a Redoute’s Choice half-sister to Group 1-winning sprinter Delectation, Artorius has won only three of 16 starts. But the Anthony and Sam Freedman trainee has been routinely competing at the top level since his juvenile days, when first-time blinkers galvanized him to win the 2021 Blue Diamond (G1).

Artorius kept running consistently well in defeat throughout his sophomore season. Third to Godolphin celebrity Anamoe in the Caulfield Guineas (G1) over a metric mile, and on the cutback to sprinting in the Coolmore Stud (G1), Artorius was a creditable sixth of 17 in the 2022 Newmarket H. (G1) before jetting off to Great Britain. He followed up his Jubilee third with another bronze medal in the July Cup (G1), then concluded his European stint with a hard-pulling sixth in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1) at Deauville.

Returning from a nearly seven-month layoff in the March 4 Canterbury (G1) at Randwick, Artorius snapped his losing streak. The closer threaded through traffic and flew in time to mug New Zealand darling Imperatriz. An equipment change from blinkers to visor might have played a role.

Imperatriz franked the form next time in the William Reid (G1) at Moonee Valley, beating Coolangatta’s old rival Bella Nipotina. Artorius stepped up in distance for the George Ryder (G1) at Rosehill, where he rallied for fourth to Anamoe (who was racking up Group 1 win number nine). Settled midpack on the inside, Artorius kicked into gear late and went down by about three-quarters of a length.

The Astrologist will get his conditions

The most exposed of the Australian brigade with 38 starts, The Astrologist has also been a notch below the top-tier at home. But the Zoustar gelding is at his best going about six furlongs on a straightaway, as evidenced by his near-miss in the Al Quoz Sprint (G1) on the Dubai World Cup card.

It’s also a plus that Damian Lane, who rode him in Dubai, will be back aboard. The tactical maestro is having success in Japan, recently steering Tastiera to a mild upset of the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) (G1).

Since joining Leon and Troy Corstens ahead of his four-year-old campaign, The Astrologist has developed into a familiar competitor in the sprint division. His biggest wins have come in Group 3s, the 2021 Aurie’s Star (G3) in his optimal conditions at Flemington, and the about seven-furlong Gold Rush (G3) around a turn at Ascot (in Perth) last December.

Yet The Astrologist usually finds the Group 1 level just beyond his grasp. Until the Al Quoz, the closest he’d come was a half-length second in the 2022 Newmarket, as a 60-1 shot denied by the 100-1 Roch ‘N’ Horse. The wild result occurred with the longshots thriving on the far side as the fancies were in the other, near-side group.

In his next seven Australian Group 1 races, The Astrologist’s best result was a one-paced third in the 2022 Goodwood (G1) at Morphettville. But his best performance, given the depth of the field, was his sixth in the frenetic finish of the Nov. 5 Champions Sprint (G1). Again raising his game at Flemington, The Astrologist was beaten a grand total of a length by Roch ‘N’ Horse, with odds-on Nature Strip second, Giga Kick a belated fifth, and Artorius sixth in the cavalry charge.

By comparison, the Al Quoz wasn’t an all-star affair. The Astrologist, always in the vanguard, was just nipped by another longshot, locally-based Danyah, who paid $139.40 stateside. Godolphin’s favored Al Suhail, himself a Jubilee candidate, was a near-miss third.

The Astrologist has already set up camp in England and raced twice. Tiring to seventh in the 1895 Duke of York (G2) (to Azure Blue and King’s Stand favorite Highfield Princess), The Astrologist took a step forward when second in the seven-furlong John of Gaunt (G3) on June 10.

With his steady cruising speed best suited to a straight, the stiff six of the Jubilee should suit The Astrologist. The question is whether he can ever win a race of this magnitude; a minor award would probably be his ceiling.